Sunday, November 30, 2008

Its funny what you miss, its funny what you don't...

They are back and not just in knitwear, although that is what the image above is of. Neither can it erase the memory of the circumstances in which I lost my "Old World Underground..." t-shirt.

I miss Metric, a lot, but they have promised a new album - already in the can - that will be released in early 2009.

Here's another surprise: Sunday at Devil Dirt was certainly one good thing in 2008; now Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan have spoiled us with a bonus for Christmas! It is a CD EP called 'Keep Me In Mind Sweetheart' and, while the title track does feature on the album the other five here, also recorded during the album sessions, do not and tend to be more mellow than those tracks that appeared on the album.

The artwork for the EP...

...probably mirrors the sentiment and 'Asleep On A Sixpence' and
'Rambing Rose, Creeping Vine' particularly do so.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Boca al Lupo

One of the facts of getting older is, perhaps, that you should pay more attention to your own sanity. I'm still not sure how this works but, for me at least, this seems to include the realisation that I like a far wider range of music than I did when I was a teenager. It is true that what I liked then was not just current chart; now I like a diverse range but it still includes plenty of chart music. I liked much folk/roots music then too and I still do. Wholly electronic music is something that I'd never really considered until somehow, and quite why I can no longer remember, I decided to give it a try...

If, however, you had asked me about this kind of electronica three years ago I'd have questioned both your sanity and mine.

Then I discovered that I like it! Not all of it, of course, but that applies equally to any category of music. One of the first albums I bought in this genre was the 2007 re-release of Xela - For Frosty Mornings and Summer Nights. I was acquainted with releases by the 'Type Records' label before that but this was my first experience of Xela and I mentioned it here.

The new Xela album In Boca Al Lupo was pre-released on 2 x 12" vinyl on 24 November TYPE043V. It is wonderful and, although I have not yet listened to it sufficiently often to fully appreciate it, my thoughts are that it is rather more movingly sinister and organic than Frosty Mornings... but like it totally without lyric. It is a shame that it wasn't available in time for my suggestions for Halloween music, as it would have been the perfect dénouement.

In Boca Al Lupo is released (in the UK on import) on CD on 9 December 2008 but you might still be able to get the vinyl version here.
A prolific artist without doubt but some Xela releases have to be grabbed as soon as they appear and this, a 12" vinyl only collaboration with the The North Sea, is a good example...


Friday, November 28, 2008

An obvious revelation - Rocket Science For Dummies...

I've known this before but never allowed myself to believe that it is true. It follows on from the fact that, some years ago, I decided to buy music I was interested in, whether it is "popular" or otherwise. For a long time I have had no problem with current pop and this year I have finally given in and acknowledged that, however many albums I buy and however much I like them (or don't), I will only ever be able to scratch the surface of what I might like whether it is totally commercial or rather obscure and from wherever it comes. This new reality has certainly influenced my purchases and listening this year and, quite probably, kept me relatively sane.

This is the cheapest CD I have ever bought, and it arrived today. It cost US$ 0.01 (plus $5.48 international airmail from the US) and it is not something you are likely to find in HMV, Zavvi or even on
It is weird, it is wonderful in a pop-fusion way, and there's a new album - Rocket Science For Dummies
- coming very soon:

It's a beautiful fate, take yourself on a blind date
Substitute your self-hate, everything else can wait
It's a beautiful fate, requiem for all that's fake
Let yourself celebrate, everything else can wait

From "Beautiful Fate" on the forthcoming album 'Rocket Science for Dummies' by Astronauts of Antiquity. The thing is that you need their first album, on which India and B Rhyan combine a host of curious influences, and it is still available for $0.01 + p&p.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Reservations

Yesterday (at work) we ended talking about traditional American blues-rock and its influence in the UK. My older colleague harks on about a 2008 casualty, the late Bo Diddley, which prompted me to mention that I saw Seasick Steve live @ Latitude 2008 and that he referenced the very same (and he uses bespoke guitars too). In addition to this is the fact that, particularly in the last six months, I've been making efforts to rediscover all the vinyl I bought about twenty years ago - much of it second hand even then - and for some reason I suddenly woke up the following morning thinking about a band called Blackfoot.

What followed is a first on this blog! I delved in the long disregarded boxes in the loft and luckily soon found what I was seeking. It was before I left for work and this is important because the only place I can still play cassettes is in my car!
This was recorded live in Newcastle-on-Tyne, hence the inclusion of 'Howay The Lads' at the end (!), and released in 1982
. It also shows how much of the UK-styled interpretation of blues-rock Blackfoot had taken on board by this time. I have mentioned the 1970s and early 1980s as being, in my opinion, the heyday of live albums already this year and I'd like to add this to my 'best-of' list.

I then had an idea that I could do better on vinyl...

No Reservations was the first album, Antilles AN-7076, of 1975.

The opening track, Railroad Man is actually a cover of the Shorty Medlock song. Rickey Medlocke is the main man here, although the band has multiple vocalists and twin lead guitars, but he is the son of the aforementioned. This is an album much concerned with change and dislocation, which makes it seem relevant once again.

This was followed in 1976 by Flyin' High, which I also have on vinyl, and that perhaps shows even more European rock influences. The back cover of the LP (Epic PE 34378) has an interesting band biography dating from 1976 (click image to see it readable in a new window).

Thoughts On Music -- an update...

Following on from that which I wrote on Monday I suddenly seem to have loads of ideas - it's amazing what a few rather boring days at work can do. At work we've ended up talking about music a few times and as I don't think that my colleagues, of different ages and musical tastes, know about this little sideline but they have quite accidentally given me inspiration.
One thing it has made me realise it just how much music I have listened to this year and that not all of it, by any means and even to me, is brand new music. They have narrow tastes in music, if only in my opinion, but I know that I'm certainly enjoying expanding mine!

Monday, November 24, 2008

2008 matters because... Part 1

I've not posted much recently but that is not because music has been far from my mind. Rather the opposite in fact; it is just that I have been listening to it and thinking about it rather than writing about it. Several people have asked about lyrics to some albums I have mentioned recently, particularly 'Jill Jackson' - Jill Jackson and 'Love Tattoo' - Imelda May and I hope to have these on-line this coming weekend at the latest.

Some say, and it has been the case for decades, that the latest year is just more proof of the end of the world as we know it. I am quite willing to believe that the global economy in 2008 has suffered vicissitudes unknown in the lifetimes of most of us but does that therefore mean the end of music as we know it? I'd wager that the answer is no for that never really happens, new layers are simply added and, while some genres fade in popularity and prominence (not always the same thing) they rarely disappear completely and have a tendency to return, revisited and reinvented, when least suspected. I have only one reservation and that is: Do you get the feeling that things are undergoing a subtle, but perhaps profound, change?

Think back over the last year and there are some surprises, the most surprising often not being the most immediately obvious. A good and fairly easy place to start is the continuing ascent of apparently unlikely, but often very successful, cover versions.

Who, say three years ago, would have predicted the likes of Adele covering Bob Dylan's Make You Feel My Love?
It's the only cover on her 2008 début album '19' but what a dangerous choice - he has rarely played it live, hinting that it it is too difficult to perform under pressure - but when she performed it live on 'Later... with Jules Holland' as a piano ballad it went stellar and is now to be a single.
Leona Lewis has just released an updated version of her #1 2007 album 'Spirit', which went straight to the top spot again this week; of the two new tracks on it one is actually a cover version of Run from the 2003 Snow Patrol album 'Final Straw' which she first revealed, by performing it live, on BBC Radio 1's 'Live Lounge' in 2007 and again on X-Factor a couple of weeks ago.

I've heard this cover of Willie Nelson's Angel Too Close To The Ground (from the soundtrack to the 1980 drama Honeysuckle Rose), performed live by Beth Rowley twice now and it is amazing:

If you had not have fallen then I would not have found you
Angel flying too close to the ground.

I patched up your broken wings and hung around a while
Kept your spirits up and your fever down.
I knew some day that you would fly away
For love's the greatest healer to be found

So leave me, if you need to, but I will still remember
Angel flying too close to the ground.

It is included, as a duet, on her 2008 début album 'Little Dreamer', which also includes a fine cover of Bob Dylan's I Shall Be Released and also some very good new songs. In my opinion So Sublime is the best of them, and amongst the best on the album, but it is all a close call.

I'll expand on what I mean by this generalisation in the coming weeks, but this is my premise:
Could the diversity that we have seen this year be the start of a new era of popular music we can hardly yet even imagine?

Monday, November 17, 2008

EPs of 2008...

I find categories with many competing possibilities particularly difficult by dint of the selection criteria: on one hand I don't want to appear biased but, on the other hand, that is exactly why I'm writing it!

This is the easiest category to deal with as there are relatively few contenders. Last year the selection process was pretty easy and this year it has not been too difficult either but there still are important differences: last year both artists/acts came from the UK and sung in English but this year that is not true!
The problem with doing this is that, having listened to the contenders for the category, what to listen to while writing that is not apt to influence the decision and is yet complementary? My answer, available on CD and well worth a listen, is Kiln House - Fleetwood Mac (1970, 12" vinyl, RSLP9004).

In 2008 one of the two doesn't come from the UK and one doesn't sing in English (on the EP)! At least you can't say that I've not chosen two that are in a similar genre, though that was not true last year either. Here they are, in no order:

  • Sun Giant - Fleet Foxes
Released in the US in late 2007 and, following their signing to Bella Union, in the UK in early 2008, is this EP by Seattle all-male five-piece 'Fleet Foxes'. They made tight vocal harmonies cool again - even before the release of their eponymous début album later in 2008 - and they sing in English.
  • Edrych Yn Llygaid Ceffyl Benthyg - Cate Le Bon
The long promised album, apparently to be entitled Pet Deaths, has still not appeared but in early summer 2008 this 5-track EP, released only on 10" vinyl and sung entirely in Welsh, more than made up for that! Some of the tracks are far more complex than those she has show-cased before.
I can't yet quite explain why I think this but the final track, O Bont i Bont, sounds like one of the very best modern French pop songs that has never actually been written!

Two incomparable but equally innovative and worthwhile EPs; demonstrating beyond doubt that the genre is still well and truly alive.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It is no hardship...

This week I started to listen systematically to every 2008 album release that I own, and make notes, with the idea being to choose the ten or so that I think have mattered the most to me. It is most certainly a labour of love. (It does include albums released in 2007 elsewhere but not in the UK - and, as a balance, I'm also including albums I have that were released elsewhere in 2008 are but not yet on full release in the UK).
It is a larger task than I had presumed and you could say that I've manipulated the rules to suit my purposes but if they can do it on 'X Factor' then surely, in the absence of experts, it is my prerogotive too?
Last minute entries are always welcome, and there may be more yet, but I'm glad that I started this assignment when I did.

A full week of evenings spent listening wouldn't get through half of it and, from a purely practical aspect, necessities such as eating and sleeping make that quite impossible anyway. I also made some predictions for 2008 and so it is therefore only right that I should be held to account.

I think that I'm now settled on about half of it and, if the pattern is anything to go by, it is going to bear no more relationship to the charts - in the UK, the US or anywhere else - than it did last year. That is not to say that I don't listen to, or like, chart music because actually I do; I'll mention some that has caught my ear in 2008 in another post.
'Thoughts On Music 2008' certainly isn't over yet but 'Thoughts on Music 2009' already exists in my mind!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Too soon to review; but not too early to predict!

I'd say that it is still too early to compile and publish any list of 'best of 2008'. That is not to say that I haven't given thought to such matters, for of course I have, but that is a different matter entirely!
On the other hand it certainly is not too early to consider what and who might be influential in 2009 and, although that is still open to question, this EP is already on my list...

As far as I can tell this is currently only available to download, which is a shame, but that is not to detract from its merit at all. She is the principal part in a trio that includes the tight accompaniment of Tom (bass) and Howie (percussion) while she sings lead vocals and also plays lead guitar - her trademark red Strat - an interesting choice for one who, as a child, learned classical piano.
You might have heard her before, without even realising it, as she provided backing vocals for some tracks on the Goldfrapp album 'Seventh Tree'. Her début album is due in 2009.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Silence Is Wild

You could well be forgiven for thinking that I had somehow lost my obsession with music from Canada, which featured so prominently in 2007. That is, however, far from the truth even if that about which I have written has largely had its focus elsewhere and I can't really see myself losing touch with Canadian music as it has had, directly or otherwise, so much influence on that which I have discovered and come to like over the last five years.

Silence Is Wild - Frida Hyvönen (SC184, 2008)

Not yet released in the UK, but released by label 'Secretly Canadian' last Tuesday is SC184, Silence Is Wild, the second album by Frida Hyvönen and the less sparsely arranged follow-up to her 2006 début, the little-lauded but still rather splendid and piano-led, Until Death Comes. Recorded in Stockholm earlier in 2008 it is from an artist for whom the label name is particularly apt. It was released as SC184 (and also on vinyl) on November, 4 and I have it on order so I'll soon be able to comment with more authority.

Another recent sophomore album, Some Are Lakes, comes from the very genuinely Canadian band Land Of Talk. I, unlike some considerable minority, liked their last offering 'Applause, Cheer, Boo, Hiss' and this one, I think, is even better.

I already have this, on vinyl indeed (Saddle Creek Records - lbj126), and I'll add some detail on what I think of individual tracks when I've listened to it a few more times.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A remarkable week, when all is said and done...

I can think of plenty of things to say but this song, and many others on the album Carry The Light, amongst them - 'No More Lies' and 'Time For A Change' - tell a story far better than I could ever hope to:

Run Like Hell

Building bridges
Across rivers deep and wide
We might need a telescope
To see the other side
We all know
That something must be done
'Cause the future is fading fast
just like a setting sun.

We can hear a distant sound
Like the ringing of a bell
We better do something fast or

War here, war there,
War everywhere.
A leader lies and someone dies
But do they really care
And could we face the truth
If truth were even there.
Who's gonna tell our children
The future isn't their's...

We can hear a distant sound
Like the ringing of a bell
We better do something fast or

Now don't get me wrong
The ending isn't clear
Many chapters of this book
Have all been filled with fear
I can hear the pages turn
It's the chance we've waited for
We're ALL in this together
And we've seen it - ALL before.
As we wake up in the in the morning
To face another day
Wishin' for blue skies
And all we get is grey
We try to keep our hope alive
No matter what they say
It is time that we get busy
And do something more than pray

We can hear a distant sound
Like the ringing of a bell
We better do something fast or

If the album 'Carry The Light' puts me in mind of any other that I have then it is 'Live - Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush' (1978) and that is no bad thing at all. This classic rock album has recently been re-released on CD and it is one of the favourite live albums that I own.

Things can, and in time will, get better...

A Change Is Gonna Come - Leela James (2005)

On the other hand, while writing this, I'm currently listening to an equally relevant but at least in style very different album. It was released only a few years ago but that could be an age; it is now more immediately relevant than ever it was hitherto.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

More albums I want - 2008, part 7.

Here goes with another selection from 2008 and these are already on order and, indeed the last I already have. One of the most common enquiries here in the last few weeks are about who is supporting Seth Lakeman on his autumn UK tour. I don't know and, when I saw Seth Lakeman live in Frome in July the support act was not advertised in advance as far as I could find.

Only later, when it finally occurred to me that she was not completely overshadowed by Seth Lakeman, I realised that should have bought this at the time but I didn't. Now I have it on order and can't wait to hear her renditions of delta blues and rock again.

With backing musicians playing various instruments on various tracks, this is not the same as the remarkably visceral, if slightly messy, solo performance that she provided when supporting Seth Lakeman back in July. That is not to say that I was disappointed, for I wasn't, but I did wonder at the time that perhaps with backing musicians...
I also, rather contrary-wise, anticipated not liking the album as much. I was possibly wrong on both counts: NOT playing solo seems to make her sound more focussed on CD. Live with a band I can't say but now I wonder.

That topic tempts me to mention another artist of whom, until very recently indeed, I was completely unaware:

Kelly Richey - Carry The Light (2008)
High school history teacher and also blues-rock guitarist, this album is on US import only and that is a pity.

In a completely different style, but still quite American in a totally different sense, is the pop-fusion trio called Brazilian Girls. Brazilian they are not and the only female is Sabina Sciubba, an Italian New Yorker bought up in France and Germany, while Didi Gutman is Argentinian and the trio is completed by Aaron Johnston. The music, which involves a host of guest musicians, is eclectic but involves elements of pop, dance and electronica combined with any other influence that took their fancy (and they are very many and varied) in an unconsciously free-flowing way and similarly employs lyrics in at least five languages, several of which are often combined in one song. It is not however music difficult to listen to, far from it in fact, and I find it hard to pick favourites but here goes:
  • Losing Myself
  • Berlin
  • L'interprete
  • I Want Out
Some artists have been invoked as influences and Blondie is the one I have seen cited most often. I think that that is an invidious comparison when, as it often is, taken too far. This album doesn't actually, when taken as a whole, sound much like anyone else well known and this is exactly why its unpredictability is so welcome and refreshing - take it as it comes and it is a delight to listen to again and again.
That there are very slight similarities at times, particularly in the prominence of the vocals, that at times make me think CSS - all of who are Brazilian and, Adriano Cintra aside, female - is perhaps no great surprise. While the second CSS album, Donkey (2008), is greatly different to their 2006 début, CSS, it remains a splendid example of how something rather improbable can take hold and soon become something unforgettable; at Glastonbury 2007 they even made the sun come out! I had seen the Glastonbury footage before I saw them at Latitude 2007 in the sunshine a couple of weeks later and, given the circumstances of their formation, they were simply electrifying playing live. That trait, I strongly suspect, is also true of Brazilian Girls and I hope to get the chance to find out.